Three influential New Zealand figures are urging the government to consider reopening the borders, and abandon a strategy of totally eliminating the Covid-19 virus.

The former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, former prime minister Helen Clark and ex-Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe say an extended delay in opening the borders will cause huge damage to the country’s economy and social wellbeing, and it’s now time change the goals.

The current quarantine and testing processes are “ineffective” and could “come to haunt” the country if they are not replaced, they warn. And they should be replaced with more efficient and aggressive processes, which can cope with higher volumes of people coming in.

The trio joined forces to co-author a conversation paper released today, Re-engaging New Zealand with the World, with expert input from epidemiologist Sir David Skegg and digital contact tracing expert Dr Andrew Chen.

Speaking to Morning Report on Friday, Gluckman said planning for the future has become bogged down in an unhelpful shift to New Zealand’s goals after the country went into lockdown – from trying to ‘flatten the curve’ of the numbers infected with the virus at any one time, to complete elimination.

“Nobody is saying open the borders today … but at some time in the near future we have to have a strategy in place of gradually opening the border, because we cannot [keep it closed] indefinitely,” he said.

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